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Wing hosts 'Rise to the Challenge' tour at 2010 Kentucky State Fair

Even before it officially opened, members of the public lined up to participate in the Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing's "Rise to the Challenge" tour at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair. The activities of the tour featured hands-on challegnes to educate the public, highlight the benfits of service, and identify opportunities that could help prospective Bluegrass Airmen achieve their educational and career goals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

Even before it officially opened, members of the public lined up to participate in the Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing's "Rise to the Challenge" tour at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair. The activities of the tour featured hands-on challegnes to educate the public, highlight the benfits of service, and identify opportunities that could help prospective Bluegrass Airmen achieve their educational and career goals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

Cole Sherman of Morganfield, Ky., lowers a helocopter to "rescue" a stranded man in a scale model simulating a disaster torn city at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair,  The Simulator was part of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Louisville's 123rd Airlift Wing "Rise to the Challenge" tour.  The activities of the tour featured hands-on challegnes to educate the public, highlight the benfits of service, and identify opportunities that could help prospective Bluegrass Airmen achieve their educational and career goals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

Cole Sherman of Morganfield, Ky., lowers a helocopter to "rescue" a stranded man in a scale model simulating a disaster torn city at the 2010 Kentucky State Fair, The Simulator was part of the Kentucky Air National Guard Base Louisville's 123rd Airlift Wing "Rise to the Challenge" tour. The activities of the tour featured hands-on challegnes to educate the public, highlight the benfits of service, and identify opportunities that could help prospective Bluegrass Airmen achieve their educational and career goals. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. D. Clare)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Visitors to the 2010 Kentucky State Fair received more than information about the Air National Guard - they were able to experience it.
            
At this year's fair, the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing played host to the ANG's "Rise to the Challenge" tour, which featured hands-on challenges to educate the public, highlight the benefits of service, and identify opportunities that could help prospective Bluegrass Airmen achieve their educational and career goals.

"A lot of people see this elaborate set up and think they have to pay to get involved. One of our biggest jobs is engaging the audience and letting them know they can come experience the Air National Guard for free," said Eric Tylar, tour driver. "This is always one of the top attractions at any event we attend and we're proud of how many people want to learn more about the guard long after they experience the tour."

Members start the tour at a mission control center where they provide their contact information. Then the tour begins in earnest with the Aerospace Mechanical Challenge. There, participants are graded on their mechanical aptitude by using different connections to repair a simulated jet engine.

From there, visitors could participate in a "cargo challenge" multi-dimensional puzzle that challenged fair-goers' spatial reasoning. If the moderate intensity of those activities and the August sun left members warm, the next stop was a climate-controlled trailer where the public could get a high-tech taste of the unique and varied opportunities the Air National Guard offers. There, with a specially configured video gaming system, prospectivemembers and citizens could undertake the "Battlefield Airman Challenge."
 
On another gaming console, they could attempt an aerial refueling while controlling a B-2 Spirit bomber. They were given a reconnaissance quiz after beingshown surveillance images from an MQ-1 Predator remotely controlled aircraft. They even participated in a medical challenge where they were able to perform simulated lifesaving procedures on screen.

"In addition to giving our guests a unique experience, these challenges give us some talking points when we identify someone who might be interested in joining the Guard," said Master Sgt. Thomas Caruso, 123rd Airlift Wing recruiter. "I'm not saying we're going to get an intelligence analyst from these challenges. But we're going to be able to talk about an individual's strengths and give them some areas in the Guard where they can put their natural skills to good use."

While the event might not lead directly to enlistments, in just four days, Sergeant Caruso said he made nearly 550 contacts - a quarter of which demonstrated interest in joining the Kentucky Air National Guard. The leading ANG recruiter for the Commonwealth said he believes he is planting the seeds for a harvest of quality individuals in the future.

"I never really thought about joining the military. But I might think about it now. I didn't know there was that many things to do," said Cole Sherman, a student from Morganfield, Ky., who scored high in each of the various challenges. "I respect what people in the military do. I'm not sure about joining. I hadn't thought about it before. But maybe, maybe I will."